7 Rumors, Theories & Strange Facts About Hillsong Church (And Justin Bieber's Hot Pastor Carl Lentz)

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Rumors, Theories, And Facts About Hillsong Church And Justin Bieber's Pastor Carl Lentz

What's this church that's influencing all these celebs?

Before there were rumors of Justin Bieber starting his own religion (yes, really), there were actual religions. Since humans have walked the earth, we’ve turned to religion to help guide us through life, offer support during tough times, and just to feel closer to some kind of higher power and other like-minded people.

Sounds innocent enough. And for the most part, it is. But then there are the religions that seem rather... odd.

Take Scientology, for example, the religion famously followed by the likes of Tom Cruise and Laura Prepon. There was the celebrity Kabbalah phase, promoted by Madonna and her infamous red string bracelet.

These days, it’s Hillsong Church that’s making news — a Christian church that touts itself as “a global movement positioned at the intersection of Christianity and culture.” it’s hit the tabloids recently for its connection to huge stars like Justin Bieber and Kyrie Irving, who’ve made some pretty shocking announcements that seem rooted in their beliefs in the church.

So what exactly is the Hillsong Church, and what about it is attracting these high profile worshipers?

We investigate.

1. Hillsong is a Christian church with a strong emphasis on music

Founded in 1983 by married couple Brian and Bobbie Houston, the church has spread all over the world. According to its website, there are churches in 19 countries across five continents and estimates an average weekly global attendance of 100,000.

Its presence in the US is pretty small, with only seven locations spread across the country (which means Beliebers have a decent chance of spotting him at a service).

Where Hillsong differs from the more established religions is its focus on music. The church has three music labels of its own, a platinum record in the US, and a 2016 Billboard Music Award for Top Christian Artist. Go ahead and look them up on Spotify — we’ll wait.


2. There are some scary abuse claims and cult accusations against Hillsong Church

There isn’t a religion out there that hasn’t faced some sort of scandal, and even in its short time in existence Hillsong is no different. Perhaps the most horrifying claims against the church are those surrounding the founder’s late father.

According to The Sun, Houston’s father (who was also a pastor at the church) faced nine allegations of sexual abuse, though he confessed to only one instance of sexual abuse against a 7-year-old boy. An Australian royal commission accused Houston of covering up the crimes.

3. Hillsong Church was accused of offering gay conversion therapy

Unfortunately, many religions still preach against homosexuality. And even though Hillsong touts itself as a “contemporary” church, according to an ex-member of Hillsong some of the church’s ideologies are far from contemporary. He told The Sun that Hillsong has a “zero tolerance” policy for homosexuality, and even went so far as to offer gay conversion therapy to its parishioners where they would force camps of hundreds of boys to strip naked and run on the beach.

4. Is Hillsong Church a cult?

People who are anti-religion might claim that all religious sects are a cult. Technically, they’re not all that wrong. By definition, a cult is “a system of religious veneration and devotion directed toward a particular figure or object,” and more formally, “a relatively small group of people having religious beliefs or practices regarded by others as strange or sinister.” Of course, ‘strange’ and ‘sinister’ are subjective — but something does seem a little off with Hillsong’s practices.

For one, churchgoers are known to all wear the same peculiar hat. Then, there’s its insistence on donations from parishioners is a little shady. Mirror reports that “those who have been to Hillsong services report that leaders are swift to imply followers must give as much money as they can to the church,” which goes so far as to use Bible verses to encourage generous donations.

To be fair, this isn’t all that different from, say, a Catholic church that also encourages donations. However, Hillsong is unique in that it seems to be recruiting and exploiting celebrity attendance, which ultimately leads to a bigger bottom line.

5. Justin Bieber’s connection to Hillsong Church

Bieber angered fans in July when he abruptly canceled his Purpose tour without giving much reasoning. Soon after, TMZ reported that Bieber canceled the tour to focus on his “spiritual awakening” — courtesy of Hillsong.

Apparently, Bieber started getting serious about his religion in 2014 when he first met Hillsong pastor Carl Lentz. He moved in with Lentz and his family for a month, going so far as getting on his knees and telling Lentz, “I want to know Jesus.” Heartbreaking, right?

These days, it seems like Bieber and Lentz spend an eyebrow-raising amount of time together. And they’re not just praying — they’ve been caught eating lunch together and even taking shots at a New Zealand bar. Hey, if that’s God’s plan, sign me up.


6. Who is Justin Bieber’s pastor Carl Lentz?

Lentz first made an appearance in Bieber’s life in 2014 (when Bieber seemed to be having a pretty rough time with life), but it was only recently that he started making headlines of his own. CNN calls him the “hipster preacher,” and it’s easy to see why. A quick scroll through his Instagram and you’re bombarded with photos of a slick, good-looking, well-dressed guy often in the company of celebrities.

In an interview with NY Post, Pastor Carl revealed his life wasn’t always on the right track. He originally studied criminal justice at North Carolina State where he was on the basketball team, but dropped out because he “wasn’t following Jesus.” Eventually, he went to seminary school in LA and the rest is hipster pastor history.

7. Other celebrities in Hillsong Church

Bieber’s not the only one getting his prayer on. In fact, the church has been accused of pandering to celebrities. “People say we cater to celebrities,” Pastor Carl said in an interview with GQ. “and I say, yes, we do. Celebrities deserve a relationship with God. Celebrities deserve a place to pray.” Stars like Hailey Baldwin and Selena Gomez have been caught leaving Hillsong services or hanging out with the hipster preacher himself.

Despite Lentz’s brush-off, it’s undeniable that Hillsong seems to be at the center of some major celeb decisions. Not long after Bieber canceled his tour seemingly in the name of God, Cleveland basketball player Kyrie Irving shocked fans by saying he no longer wanted to play in the Cavaliers franchise soon after meeting with Lentz. The pastor also baptized Golden State Warriors player Kevin Durant, and was by his side when Durant signed a sports management contract with Jay-Z.